The ability of growers to farm to, or below, the limits over the time frames contained in the Tukituki Catchment Proposal (Ruataniwha) Board of Inquiry draft report will be a massive challenge.
“This decision highlights legislation is not delivering results that balance environmental protection and other community values such as work opportunities, food availability, prices and community development,” Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine says.
“A classic example is that the draft decision sets a limit of nitrogen in the Tukituki River that is 14 times more stringent than our drinking water standard. We have to ask is that sensible? Can the country afford that?
“HortNZ and growers are totally committed to ensuring industry growth can be managed within limits set to preserve environmental qualities important to all New Zealanders.
“But we need balance in the decisions and time and an investment in research to meet those limits,” Julian says.
HortNZ has two major concerns about the draft report.
Firstly, there is a big question about the ability of many parts of the vegetable industry to meet the on-farm limits.
“The vegetable industry is investing in extensive research on the measurement and management of nutrients within complex rotational farming systems but we do not have all the answers today.
“Our initial assessment is that limits set in the draft are likely to have a big impact on what crops can be grown and potentially the investments that large food companies may make in the region”.
HortNZ’s second concern is that the flows regime proposed will not be able to support even low impact horticulture businesses that rely on water in the lower Tukituki unless the dam proceeds, which now seems unlikely.
“If the dam doesn’t proceed then the growers in the lower Tukituki will have to seek access to other water sources, possibly deep bores, to provide the reliability of water needed to support their businesses,” Julian says.
HortNZ says there are some positive aspects to the draft decision:
- The Board accepted the concept of making provision for ‘Survival Water’ for rootstocks. This is an important decision nationally. The pastoral sector has been able to rely on stock drinking water as a basic right at all times, horticulture has not. This is a significant breakthrough and something HortNZ has been seeking for the past six years.
- In terms of water management, the report develops a new method of assessing ground water connectivity, makes a new tranche of water available (about 320 litres/second) and enables a new category of partially connected water takes to be recognised.